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Normal: Chapter 38   

All heads swivel in Kayla’s direction. If anyone’s going to win it in their class, Mimi thinks, it will be her sister


Mrs. Price looks excited, which can’t be good news. Mrs. Price only gets like this about stuff that’s math-related, and anything math-related… well, suffice it to say that it’s not usually up there with Mimi’s favorite ice cream flavors.

“Girls, this year we are making history!” Mrs. Price announces dramatically. “For the very first time, our school will be joining the nationwide math competition for eleventh graders, and you girls are going to be the very first class to have this special opportunity!”

Nationwide eleventh grade what? Mimi frowns and squiggles her pen across a blank page of squared loose-leaf paper. This better not mean more work, more pressure, more homework, more stress…

“Every year, schools from across the United States participate in a challenging competition,” Mrs. Price explains. “First, every eleventh grader takes a test, composed of word and logic problems that can be solved by practically applying math methodology that we’ve learned over the years. Next, the papers are sent to a central office to be graded. The top 50 in the country receive an honorary mention and a small cash prize, and of those, the top 20 are invited to a live competition — I believe this year, it will be taking place in Philadelphia. All the participants in that competition receive a larger prize, and the final winner receives a personal award as well as a very generous grant to their school.” She beams around. “You never know! One of us might just win it!”

All heads swivel in Kayla’s direction. If anyone’s going to win it in their class, Mimi thinks, it will be her sister.

Hands are flying in the air.

“When is the test?”

“How long will it be?”

“Will we get off other classes that day?”

Mrs. Price holds up her hand. “We still have some time, girls. The test will take place a week or two after Pesach, during math class, and if we need the extra time to complete it, we can go into next period. The live competition is maybe a month later — we’ll hear about it if anyone in our school is invited to join.”

“Is this voluntary, or does everyone have to do it?” Breindy asks. Mimi’s glad for the question.

Mrs. Price’s smile doesn’t falter. “I know, I know. You’re all feeling overworked, finals coming up… you don’t need to worry. Every girl will take the test, but it’s up to you whether you’d like to try for the prizes. If you would like to give it a real shot, I’ll make myself available to help you with any questions, and I’ll hand out past challenge papers and example questions so you can practice. But these tests won’t count towards your report card grade, and if you need to concentrate on your regular schoolwork, you can consider this an extra.” She pauses, and then adds, “A very exciting extra, of course!”

Exciting. Totally. Not.

Mimi glances around. Kayla’s scribbling in her notebook, probably revising her entire study schedule to accommodate preparing for this challenge. Shoshana and a few others look like they’ll be taking it seriously, too. But since this is voluntary, won’t count towards her grades, and she doesn’t have even the slightest chance of getting into the top 50, Mimi promptly relegates the news to the back of her mind. It’s more than enough just keeping up with Mrs. Price in class.

“Kayla, I’m reserving you for, like, every evening you’re free,” Toby announces, as soon as the lesson is over.

“You’re seriously gonna try for this math thing?” Chedvi asks, disbelievingly. “It’s gonna be impossible to win. You know how many schools probably participate in this?”

“Besides, if anyone will win, it’s Kayla,” Hadassah says with a laugh.

Toby shrugs. “I need to review math anyway, for finals, so why not give this a try?”

“Me too, it would be cool to get into the top 50; didn’t Mrs. Price say there’s some sort of award?” Shoshana adds.

“If you all like hanging out with Miss Genius Goody-Goody every evening, it’s your choice,” Raizy says, stalking past with her nose in the air. Mali tosses her ponytail and follows her friend out the door.

“Ugh, ignore her,” Hadassah tells Kayla, who shrugs and says, “I’m preparing my study timetable now, please form a line at my desk if you’d like to be included.”

Mimi’s relieved to see that Shoshana doesn’t join.

“What is with her?” she asks her friend, nodding towards the door where Raizy just disappeared. “What’s her issue with Kayla?”

Behind them, Ella snorts, and bites into an apple. “She’s jealous, obvs,” she says.

“Jealous? You’re joking.” Raizy Reich, of the perfect hair and designer everything, jealous of Kayla with her awkwardness, her constant social faux pas, her schoolbag and lunch box that take nerdy to new levels? No chance.

“Actually, I think Ella’s right,” Shoshana says. “Not jealous of her, but like, of the attention she gets.”

“Yeah, you know how Raizy and Mali used to be the center of everything that ever happened here. She doesn’t like anyone else getting attention.”

Mimi blinks. Attention. Really? So much negative attention, maybe, for reporting the class for their would-be Adar shtick, for saying the wrong things at the worst moments…

“Kayla helps a lot of girls. She’s become a personality in the class, someone to reckon with,” Shoshana says, quietly. “And despite all the social stuff… or maybe because of it… she’s not scared of the queen of the class. She doesn’t understand that the concept exists. And that’s… strange, for Raizy and her friends.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 927)

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